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The Appropriation and Subsequent Naturalization of Greek Science in Medieval Islam: A Preliminary Statement

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        The article that will be reviewed by me is The Appropriation and Subsequent Naturalization of Greek Science in Medieval Islam: A Preliminary Statement which had been written by A. I. Sabra. According to Dictionary web, appropriation is referred to an act or instance of appropriating something and subsequent means an event happens after something else. Besides, naturalization is the legal process by which a foreign citizen becomes a citizen of a new country. The overall meaning of the title which the author would like to tell us is the act of naturalizing Greek sciences into medieval Islam with permission and its effects. Basically, the author is emphasized on four points which are appropriation versus reception, the marginally thesis, the process of naturalization and the problem decline.

        The first point which A. I. Sabra wanted to explain is appropriation versus reception. He wanted to say that the transmission of scientific knowledge is changed from time to time. Historians would like to find out the differences between reductionism and precursorism whereby reductionism means that viewing the achievements of Islamic scientist as a merely reflection of earlier examples whereas precursorism refers to precursitis which reads the future into past with happiness. Moreover, he stressed on the consequences of Greek history which give a lot of effects to Islamic civilization such as classical heritage, the development of thoughts and culture and the European renaissance. Furthermore, the Islamic civilians themselves thought about the effects of Greek history to their own civilization.

        Next, the Islamist’s approach is to equalize the science in Islam as a phenomenon of Islamic civilization which must be understood and explained in terms of unusual to the civilization. Firstly, the Greco-Arabic transmission of science and philosophy is a complex process whereby the translation is easily affected by interpretation. Secondly, reconstructing the Greek ideas from al-Kindi cannot be fully appreciated without any references to cultural situations. Lastly, its presentation in isolation from cultural factors would remain an incomplete description which cannot explain large transformation that frequently occur when cultural boundaries are crossed.

        Lastly, Islamic science is an intermediary role between Greek and Latin medieval traditions. That role has its own importance, thus, the scholars have viewed the medieval Islamic period as a period of reception, preservation and transmission. In return, they have not only just viewed individual achievement but the whole of its profile. Therefore, the word ‘reception’ has been used to initiate the history of Islamic science which means the bare movement of translation.

        The second point that Sabra give priority to is that marginality thesis. Some scholars have explicitly or implicitly expressed that scientific and philosophical activities in medieval Islam had no powerful effects on the social, economic, educational and religious institutions except when there is a small group of people who still keeping Greek legacy alive in Islamic lands. Sabra highlighted that the marginal thesis is difficult to understand because no one is expected that a minor group of people would give their opinions to the high level of Islamic scientists and philosophers.

        There are three observation of marginality thesis. Firstly, the philosophical or rational sciences has met with the opposition from religious ‘orthodoxy’ and the champions of an indigenous Arabic culture. Ashab al-hadith competed with mutakallimun and mutakallimun fought with the Sufis while the Sufis argued with the fuqaha’. Besides, the orthodox scholars were so suspicious toward philosophical sciences which can be recorded from the historical reports which is by Ignaz Goldziher. Goldziher has argued about the role of faqih. Faqih is a scholar who has a certain understanding of matters relating to shari’a and self-appointed based on his standing of scholar, reputation and power of persuasion. Usually, his role is always misused for political power. Moreover, the object of attack was not always the same by means of every branch that have been changed to Arabic its contents which the terms have been altered. Furthermore, the religious science of kalam was connected with ancient science has been insulted. It implies on a traditional way of receiving and communicating knowledge versus all forms of independent exercise of reason.

        Secondly, the marginality thesis is entrusted on madrasa which formally avoid the rational or philosophical sciences. Hence, the Islamic civilization is not thriving. Normally, madrasa in that era was used as a place where Nizamiyya can practise theologico-political motivation. Sabra highlighted in this observation that monographic studies are needed to deal with certain situations at particular time and place.

        The last observation by Goldziher is the scholars were able and eager to give their services in their respective fields. Therefore, they must have enough time and important equipment to do their job properly, thus, the libraries and observatories must be established. The importance development is that the emergence of the mathematician-astronomer as a muwaqqit whereby he determines the times of the five daily prayers.

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